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Updated 6:30 PM June 5, 2007




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Students organize summit on challenges to Great Lakes region

Heat waves and droughts; declining lake levels; water and air pollution and related health concerns—these are among the consequences predicted for the Great Lakes region if global warming continues unchecked.

Such dire scenarios have spurred a group of graduate students in an interdisciplinary, multi-institution program based at the U-M Biological Station in Pellston to organize a two-day summit at the northern Michigan field station July 26-27.

Challenges of Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region, conceived and coordinated by students in the Biosphere-Atmosphere Research and Training (BART) program, will focus on the ecological, economic and social implications of climate change in the Great Lakes area.

"The science behind the issue has been more or less accepted, not just by scientists but all the different stakeholders: industry, academia and the larger community as a whole," says Kim Mueller, a doctoral student in the BART program. "Now is the time for people to think about what to do about climate change so that we can begin to take the right steps toward addressing this serious problem."

Participating in the program has taught Mueller and the other conference organizers the value of cross-disciplinary approaches to solving complex problems, so their plan for the summit is to bring together professionals with expertise in environmental policy and various areas of science and technology. Speakers will discuss current climate change issues affecting the Great Lakes and future concerns for the region, such as the increased likelihood of heat waves and storms, potential threats to water quality, and challenges for agriculture.

Keynote speaker Joyce Penner, professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences, is a leading authority on the effects of aerosols (particles suspended in the atmosphere) on the climate system. She also is a coauthor of the recently released "Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change" report.

Panelists include Julie Winkler, professor of geography at Michigan State University and an expert on regional climate; Stewart Cohen of British Columbia University, who researches climate change impact and adaptation; U-M atmospheric scientist Natalia Andronova, whose research focuses on interactions between climate and the chemical composition of the atmosphere; Steve Bertman, professor of chemistry at Western Michigan University and co-director of the BART program, who helped found Bronco Biodiesel in Kalamazoo and serves on the Michigan Renewable Fuels Commission; Kevin Gurney, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric science at Purdue University, who studies the global carbon cycle and related policy issues; David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor; and Howard Learner, president and executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago.

"With its emphasis on world-class environmental research and its location on the shores of Douglas Lake in northern Michigan, the U-M Biological Station provides an ideal setting for a focused discussion on how climate change will impact ecological systems and people of the Great Lakes Region," said Knute Nadelhoffer, station director.

All sessions of the summit are open to the public. Registration is $15 ($40 after July 13). On-site meals and lodging also are available for $37 per day for meals only or $73 per day for meals and lodging.

For conference registration and information go to

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